South Korea Travel Guide

South Korea Travel Guide
Officially known as the Republic of Korea, South Korea is a land filled with mesmerising landscapes and a culture that mixes both ancient and modern.

This welcoming country, known as the Land of the Morning Calm for its impressive mountain ranges and tranquil valleys, is now renowned worldwide for its technological know-how. Situated on the southern half of the Korean peninsula with China across the sea to the west and Japan to the southeast, South Korea is a beautiful country with a rich history and culture.

Following the end of the Korean War, when it was left destitute and a recipient of foreign aid, South Korea began a process of economic development on such a scale that it has now become one of the 20 largest economies in the world. This massive growth in industrialisation sees the new tower blocks, highways and shopping malls, interspersed with traditional parks, ancient temples and local markets.

Discover majestic mountain ranges, perfect for winter sports, and relax on glorious sand beaches dotted around the surrounding islands. Explore historic sites and temples, sample local street food and traditional tasty delicacies, and pamper yourself in Jjimjilbang, a Korean bathhouse for a perfect South Korean experience!

South Korea Costume


Changing guards at Gyeongbokgung PalaceSeoul

With over 600 years of history, the capital Seoul is the heart of South Korea’s culture and education as well as politics and economics. A fusion of cutting edge design, royal palaces, ancient temples and mountain trails it really is the beating heart of the country.  It is home to many historic sites such as the World Heritage listed Changdeokgung Palace, the traditional Bukchon Hanok Village, the impressive Jogye-sa temple, and Namdaemun Market.

Facts and Figures
Population: 25.6 million
International Airports: Incheon and Gimpo
Flight Time: 10 hours, 55 minutes


Busan Jagalchi MarketBusan

Korea’s Largest port city is filled with endless excitement and pleasant surprises. Many visitors flock to Haeundae, Song do and Gwangalli Beaches to relax or to attend festivals. The city hosts the annual Fireworks Festival and the Busan International Film Festival. Other must-see sites include Taejondae Resort overlooking the sea, Yongdusan Park, Yonggungsa Temple on a cliff, and the Jagalchi Market.

Facts and Figures
Population: 8.2 million
International Airports: Gimhae
Flight Time: 13 hours, 45 minutes


PyeongChang 

Host to the 2018 Winter Olympics, PyeongChang County is also known for the Odaesan National Park which has trails that criss-cross the Taebak Mountains. Northeast of Seoul, the park has many Buddhist temples to discover and is also home to the Lee Hyo-seok Culture Village, where the acclaimed author was born and raised.

Facts and Figures
Population: 43,666


Chungju

Located in the centre of South Korea, it is the second largest city in the province of Chungcheongbuk-do and an easy city to cycle around. Home to Ban Ki-moon, the former Secretary General of the U.N. when he was a boy, the Chungju World Martial Arts Festival and an annual apple festival. The beautiful Chungju Lake is just a short bus ride away and hot springs of Angseong-oncheon and Suanbo are a must.

Facts and Figures
Population: 218,000


Jeju IslandJeju Island
Jeju Island is known as the “Santorini of Korea”, the largest of the coastal islands off the Korean peninsula and is known for its beach resorts and beautiful volcanic landscape of craters and lava tubes. Fishing was the main source of income on this island in times gone by, with the Haenyo, the deep-diving women, who like mermaids, dived 10-20 meters without breathing apparatus, to catch fresh seafood to sell in the market. Even though their average age is 65, you can still see them working in various locations across the island including Jungman Beach and Seogwipo.

Facts and Figures
Population: 604,770
International Airports: Jeju
Flight Time: 14 hours, 55 minutes


Mount Seorak
Designated by UNESCO as a Biosphere Protection site, and the third highest mountain on the peninsula, Mount Seorak is a destination favoured by many. Particularly popular in July and August, when it is hot and humid elsewhere, and mid-October for the wonderful autumn vistas. While there you really should see the Gwongeumseong Fortress, the Sinheungsa Temple, the Biryong Falls and of course, treat yourself to a ride on the Seorak Sogongwon Cable Car.

Facts and Figures
Open Dates: All year round
Entrance Fee: 3,500 Won
Location: Taebaek Mountains, Gangwon Province, South Korea


The Demilitarised Zone (DMZ)
Established on 27 July 1953 following the signing of the Armistice Agreement during the Korean War, the DMZ divides the Korean Peninsula from the Imjingang River in the east, to the town of Goseong in the west. Military activity is forbidden for 2km either side of the dividing line and the lack of human disturbance for so long has resulted in the area becoming a wildlife haven. There are various sights to see and places to visit in the DMZ, including infiltration tunnels dug by soldiers during the war, the Nuri Peace Park and the Joint Security Area.


Food 
Largely based on rice, vegetables and meat, South Korean food has become more and more popular in the west, with the increase in long-haul flights making the world a smaller place. Most dishes are made using Doenjang (soybean paste), Ganjang (soy sauce), Gochu-jang (chili paste) and Jeotgal (salted seafood), the most famous being Kimchi, a spiced, fermented cabbage served as a side with nearly every meal. Another dish that you really should sample is Bibimbap, a rice dish said to be from Jeonju, a UNESCO-designated “City of Gastronomy,” where food festivals, including the Bibimbap Festival, are held every autumn.


Seoul, South Korea, NightGetting Around
Public transport in South Korea is well run and plentiful. From the underground system of Seoul and Busan, to the local buses serving less populated areas, it is very easy to get around this civilised country. The fastest way to travel is either on the affordable and punctual rail network, or by plane on one of the extensive domestic flights. As South Korea is surrounded by thousands of islands there are plenty of ferries available to transport you. Obviously, as with all destinations, it is best to avoid travelling during rush hour or public holidays if at all possible.


Useful Information

Official Name: Republic of Korea
Location: Southern part of the Korean Peninsula
Language: Korean
Time: GMT +9
Currency: South Korean Won
International Dialling Code: +82
Voltage: 220V
Capital: Seoul
Population: 51.25 million (2016)
International Airports: Seoul – Incheon and Gimpo; Jeju; Gwangju
Visas: If you have a British Citizen passport you can enter South Korea as a tourist for up to 90 days without a visa. You must also have an onward or return ticket.
Vaccinations: You should always seek medical advice from your GP before travelling to South Korea and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations.
Tipping: It is not standard practice to tip in South Korea and is generally not expected, although never refused.
Best time to visit: March – May for the cherry blossom season and the Lotus Lantern Festival; September for Chuseok; October – November for the autumn colours; December – March ski season. June – September is particularly hot and humid and best spent on the beaches.


Festivals

January
Ganghwa Icefish Festival, Incheon
Bucheon Aiins World – World Nightview Fantasy Lighting Festival, Gyeonggi-do
Hongcheon River Ginseng Trout Festival, Gangwon-do
Taebaeksan Mountain Snow Festival, Gangwon-do

February
Tamnaguk Ipchun Gut Nori (Spring Welcoming Exorcism of Tamna), Jeju-do
Daegwallyeong Snow Festival, Gangwon-do

March
Jeju Fire Festival, Jeju-do

April
Goryeong Daegaya Experience Festival, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Taean Tulip Festival, Chungcheongnam-do
Mungyeong Traditional Chasabal Festival, Gyeongsangbuk-do

May
Yeoncheon Jeongok-ri Paleolthic Festival, Gyeonggi-do
Yeon Deung Hoe (Lotus Lantern Festival), Seoul
Jindo Miracle Sea Road Festival, Jeollanam-do

October
Jarasum International Jazz Festival, Gyeonggi-do
Sunchang Fermented Food Festival, Jeollabuk-do


Public Holidays

2018

January 1 New Year’s Day
February 15, 16, 17 Korean New Year
March 1 March 1st Movement
May 7 Children’s Day Holiday
May 22 Buddha’s Birthday
June 6 Memorial Day
August 15 Liberation Day
September 23, 24, 25, 26 Harvest Festival (Chuseok) Holiday
October 3 National Foundation Day
October 9 Hangeul (Korean Alphabet) Day
December 25 Christmas Day

2019

January 1 New Year’s Day
February 4, 5, 6 Korean New Year
March 1 March 1st Movement
May 5 Children’s Day Holiday
May 12 Buddha’s Birthday
June 6 Memorial Day
August 15 Liberation Day
September 12, 13, 14 Harvest Festival (Chuseok) Holiday
October 3 National Foundation Day
October 9 Hangeul (Korean Alphabet) Day
December 25 Christmas Day

 


Average Weather

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
High °C 1 4 10 18 23 17 29 30 26 20 12 4
Low °C -7 -4 1 7 13 18 22 22 17 10 2 -4
Rain Days 3 3 4 5 5 6 13 11 7 4 6 3

 


Tours and Itineraries
Below is a selection of small group and self-guided tours to South Korea, but remember we can also tailor-make a journey to suit your requirements.

Grand Japan and South Korea
Duration: 20 Days
Itinerary: Tokyo – Hakone – Kyoto – Hiroshima – Osaka – Seoul – Daejon – Gwangju – Yeosu – Busan – Gyeongju – PyeongChang – Seoul
View tour >>

Japan and South Korea (self-guided)
Duration: 10 Days
Itinerary: Tokyo – Hakone – Kyoto – Seoul
View tour >>

Treasures of South Korea
Duration: 7 Days
Itinerary: Seoul – Gyeongju – Busan – Seoul
View tour >>

Wonders of South Korea
Duration: 11 Days
Itinerary: Seoul – Gyeongju – Busan – Daegu – Chungju – Mount Seorak – Seoul
View tour >>

Women dancing South Korea    South Korea Pagoda   Dol hareubang (Stone Statue of Jejudo Island)